Do androids dream? Rick asked himself
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a science fiction, post-apocalyptic novel by Philip K. Dick. It is set on Earth, which has been damaged by a global nuclear war. The book is about Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter who is tasked with destroying escaped androids that are too human-like and have gone rogue.
I really liked this book – I read it in just under two days.
The only other work I’ve read by Philip K. Dick was The Man In The High Castle, which I had mixed opinions about. You can read my review of it here.
In comparison, I much preferred Androids. There are lots of science fiction motifs that don’t weigh the narrative down with jargon as things are clearly explained throughout.
I especially liked the Mood Organ, a device with the ability to change the user’s emotional state at the press of a button. It’s simultaneously desirable – to help you get over bad moods – and problematic, as anyone who has access to your Mood Organ has access, and therefore control, over your inner emotions and thoughts.
Androids, like The Man In The High Castle, was very character driven. This time however, I actually found all the main characters likeable and interesting in different ways.
Although, in some places, I thought Androids was a little too theological and philosophical when discussing the godlike figure of Mercer (which I still don’t fully understand) but this didn’t trip me up enough to spoil my reading.
The title: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a nod to Rick’s desire to own a real, living animal but only owns an electric imitation sheep. Most animals became extinct in the wake of the nuclear war, dying of radiation poisoning. However, his neighbours believe his sheep is real, granting him a perceived level of status. Yet it raises the question; if Rick’s neighbours already believe an electronic imitation is real, what difference does it make if it isn’t?
The narrative was quite dark in places, with some sinister but enjoyable plot twists. Androids introduces themes such as empathy and sympathy, reality versus artifice and questions what it really means to be human, a question I think is a prevalent subject in popular culture today.
Robotics is a modern science which seems to have become even more popular in recent years. Channel 4 adapted Philip K. Dick’s short stories into a sci-fi anthology series just last year – titled Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams – and in 2015, the TV series Humans made its debut, exploring robotics, artificial intelligence and the social impact of increasingly human-like androids on families and the world.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a fascinating and entertaining read – I definitely recommend.